As we approach the beginning of the breeding season, many dairy farmers will have already selected their bull teams, or will do so over the coming days.

In the most recent episode of ‘Let’s Talk Dairy’ Stuart Childs, a dairy specialist with Teagasc, outlined some important selection targets when picking your bull teams.

Stuart outlined some of the overall guidelines that Teagasc has issued to farmers in relation to the breeding targets for this year.

He said: ”Over the last couple of years there has been less emphasis put on the selection of bulls, and more of a focus put on it now as opposed to a herd trying to improve the breeding decisions for the farm itself.”

Bull selection

Stuart highlighted the 2021 bull selection targets relating to the thresholds of economic breeding index (EBI), fertility, milk and health.

”Research has shown, that every €1 increase in EBI, [this] accounts for a €2 increase in profitability of that cow,” he stated.

”Fertility has improved on farms over the last number of years, with selection of positive figure for health also now becoming important.”

Sub-IndexThreshold for individual bullsTeam average
2021 bull selection targets

Stuart said that it is important to ”select a team of high EBI artificial insemination (AI) bulls when breeding your dairy replacements”.

”Nationally, farmers tend to use a sufficiently large team of bulls. The common mistake made by many, is that individual bulls in the team can be overused.

“Typically, 34% of calves in dairy herds are sired by one bull and this is too high. The risk is that if the bull should subsequently fall in EBI, then the genetic merit of the progeny will also be affected.

”For a typical 100-cow herd, a minimum of eight bulls should be used on your herd, with no more than 15% of matings to any one bull. This is the advice regardless of whether the bulls are genomic or daughter proven,” Stuart concluded.